- Picardy & North
The beaches of Picardy were made famous in the last century by the WW1 Battle of the Somme, and have featured in historical events such as when William the Conqueror set sail for England in 1066. With one of the least urbanized coastlines in all of France and miles of beautiful sandy beaches, the coastline of Picardy is ideal for a variety of sports such as windsurfing, yachting, sailing and swimming. Inland, unspoilt plains and forests, canals and rivers are ideal for anyone who enjoys outdoor activities such as fishing, cycling, horse riding and walking. The region boasts over 2000 kilometres of pathways and lanes and a number of leisure parks. The golf enthusiast will be spoilt for choice with some of the best golf courses in France.
Horse riding is a particularly important pastime in the region and Chantilly is the country’s thoroughbred capital and home to the famous Living Horse Museum and racecourse. (http://www.museevivantducheval.fr). With a major festival each spring, archery has also been very popular since the Middle Ages.
Picardy also has a great deal to offer the art and history lover. The region is rich in history and gothic architecture. The picturesque village of Gerberory, the gothic cathedrals at Amiens, Beauvais, Laon, Noyon and Senlis and the stunning Chateaux at Chantilly and Compiegne are all worth a visit. Picardy’s culture is kept alive with exhibitions and annual music, theatre and film festivals.
Picardy has three departments: Somme, Aisne and Oise.
· Somme located in the very north of France, is known around the world for its strategic significance in both World Wars and is named after the Somme River which runs through the middle. The largest gothic cathedral in France, the Cathederale Notre-Dame, dominates the department and regional capital Aimens. This bustling University town, barely 90 minutes drive from Calais, is nestled along the banks of the Somme River and on an elaborate system of canals. This waterway system with its large number of bridges was once the centre of the Amiens’ textile industry and has been transformed into a fashionable area of restaurants, cafes and bars.
· Aisne in the east of Picardy, borders with Ile de France and the Champagne-Ardenne regions. As a result, the champagne region largely influences its culture and cuisine. The department’s capital, Laon, was a royal city for the Carolingians and has a remarkable cathedral, medieval streets and with its position on a hill, has incredible view of the surrounding countryside. St-Quentin, in the north-west of the department, is surrounded by rivers and canals and attracts ramblers and pleasure-boaters alike. Although the city suffered greatly during the last World War, many of its greatest examples of gothic architecture were spared.
· Oise department lies just outside the Paris area and its rolling countryside and dark forest provide a peaceful escape for Parisians and visitors alike. The sleepy town of Compiegne on the edge of the attractive Foret de Compiegne just 80 kilometres north of Paris, should not be missed. Its chateau is its most famous attribute but the other pull for visitors is that on the first Sunday after Easter each year it is the start of one of the world’s toughest one-day cycle races, the Paris-Roubaix. At Plailly in the south you will find the very first French theme park, Parc Asterix (http://www.parcasterix.fr). The park is based on the comical battles of Asterix and Obelix, the cartoon characters by Uderzo and Goscinny. Criel is also a pleasant town surrounded by forest. Here you can enjoy many traditions such as the annual autumn Foire aux Marrons (Chestnut Festival) or admire some Criel-Montereau’s porcelain which is highly sought after by collectors.
HOW TO GET THERE
Picardy is within one hour drive of the ferry port of Calais, Dieppe or Dunkirk and the Channel Tunnel. You can also take low cost flights into Lille or Paris. There are also excellent rail links from Paris.
Due to its proximity to the south of England, the climate of Picardy is much the same as its neighbour. It has windy, cool winters and mild summers with regular rainfall.